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John Escreet: Sound, Space and Structures

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U.K.-born pianist and composer John Escreet has always demonstrated a knack for the adventurous: When he arrived on the New York City jazz scene in 2006, his formidable improvisations resembled those of Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer-searching and explorative yet melodic. This time, though, Escreet heads full-throttle toward the outer reaches of modern free jazz, trading in melodicism for choreographed mayhem. As this disc’s title suggests, sound and spatial awareness reign supreme as he and his longstanding triomates-bassist John Hébert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey-are joined by legendary multireedist Evan Parker. Together they offer a nine-part song cycle, each section brimming with tonal wizardry and textural imagination.

Given the cryptic tone of the collective improvisations and the streamlined track titles-“Part I” through “Part IX”-it’s best to think of the album as a single performance. But on “Part VII,” the most accessible of the nine, Sorey drives the quartet with brisk, swinging momentum as Escreet enters, detouring into Ellingtonia before hammering dissonant chords and fragmented passages. Parker’s spiraling tenor saxophone lines and Hébert’s skulking basslines afford the track a heady sound that evokes the best of Blue Note’s experimental mid-’60s LPs. Still, Escreet and his cohorts refuse to settle into any noticeable groove too long, each musician relishing every cacophonous moment.

Originally Published